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10 Apr, 2013 13:46

Kyrgyz activists demand international probe into US air base

Kyrgyz activists demand international probe into US air base

A youth movement in Kyrgyzstan has accused the US of using a military air base in Kyrgyz territory to stock chemical and biological weapons, and also possibly for illegal drug and human trafficking.

Activists representing the Zhon Ele (‘Just for the sake of it’) movement have asked the government of Kyrgyzstan and also foreign nations, such as Russia and Iran, to verify these claims. The group said their suspicions are backed by reports they found in the WikiLeaks release of US diplomatic cables.

We are very concerned by the possible presence of weapons of mass destruction on this base. Considering the current aggravation of the situation around North Korea and the long-time strained relations between the United States and Iran, we fear that our country’s territory will be used for preparing aerial and missile strikes on these countries,” the group’s letter reads.

We categorically oppose the possible dragging of Kyrgyzstan into the war and against the possibility that friendly nations would consider our country as an ally of the aggressor,” it added.

The activists also claimed that NATO countries and unnamed “non-governmental organizations that receive funding from abroad” are pressuring and blackmailing Kyrgyz authorities to ensure that the US military remain at the Manas base after 2014, contrary to earlier agreements.

The Zhon Ele members maintain that since the air base enjoys full diplomatic immunity, it can be used for criminal activities like human trafficking or the transport of illegal drugs from Afghanistan.

Washington and Bishkek are currently in talks over the possible extension of the air base lease, but no deal has been reached yet; the current agreement expires in June 2014.

The group suggested that all interested countries should establish an international commission for a detailed investigation of the Manas base, including possible UN participation. A nationwide referendum should decide whether the US base must be closed and the military transit from Afghanistan through Kyrgyz territory should be banned, they said.

The Manas base is being used as a key transit center for US and allied troops since the beginning of the Afghan War in 2001. In 2009, the base was turned into a transit hub for the delivery of non-military cargo for the international coalition occupying Afghanistan. That followed a string of conflicts, prompting a significant increase in the cost of renting the base.

In late 2010, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that her country would not consider shutting down its Manas transit center until troops were pulled out of Afghanistan in 2014. However, when Clinton spoke to military personnel in Manas, she explained that “You are not going to be here indefinitely.”

The placement of the US Military base in Kyrgyzstan has been brokered through Russia, and Russian officials have repeatedly urged caution in the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Afghanistan, as this could lead to an aggravation of the military-political situation and spread violence into neighboring regions. Russia itself has three military bases in the country, including its major Kant air base.